Luke Adamson writes and directs One Last Waltz in the memory of his late grandfather. He chats to Daniel Perks about the show, the man and the disease.

“My granddad, who this is all based on – it was his Alzheimer’s that inspired the play – recently died, so it seems pertinent that we are doing the show again. Very poignant. This revival is dedicated to him.”

It’s hard to say goodbye to a loved one, even when you know that it’s their time. Writer and director Luke Adamson speaks of his late grandfather, Ernest Wood – the man who inspired One Last Waltz  with a heartfelt Northern humility:

One Last Waltz Greenwich Theatre

Luke Adamson

“Well, he’s my granddad, you know. He lived in the next village to us – a big part of my life growing up. They’d pick us up from school, we’d spend weekends and holidays with them. My grandma died a few years ago and we started seeing a few things – him putting polystyrene trays in the oven or metal in the microwave.”

I’ve been in this position too, watching three of my four grandparents disappear before my eyes. There in body, but not in soul. That’s the most destructive thing about Alzheimer’s Disease – it slowly drains your loved one of their personality, their sparkle, and leaves behind an unrecognisable husk of a previous self:

“When we got the diagnosis, suddenly everything made sense. He was put on some tablets that really did stall the effects – it was like we’d got him back.”

“It made me think of this advert I’d seen on TV,”

The earlier we catch it, the more of your loved one we can save

“But we didn’t know what we were looking for. I wrote the play partly to help myself deal with what was happening, but also to pinpoint those things that could be indicators and encourage people to talk about it.”

One Last Waltz Greenwich Theatre

It makes me proud to hear that Luke’s show is being supported by the Alzheimer’s Society, as a way of raising awareness about the disease, because the early signs can easily just be put down to old age, forgetfulness, absent-mindedness. One Last Waltz highlights such emotional torture from all perspectives – those with the illness, and those on the outside looking in, observing the effects first-hand:

“The character of Mandy came out of watching my mum with my granddad, the frustration and the angst that caused. Georgette, the third character – a hotel owner – is almost me in that sense, acting as an outside eye and offering advice. But it’s easy to do so when you’re not in the situation.”

One Last Waltz Greenwich Theatre

Julie Binysh as Mandy in One Last Waltz

The protagonist of the story, Alice, is the one affected by the disease. It must be a difficult part both for Adamson to write and the actor, Amanda Reed, to learn – the thought process of someone suffering is, by design, fundamentally different to that of a healthy individual:

“There’s a lot to learn in the three-hander, especially for Amanda, who’s playing Alice – somebody in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. It’s not always the most logical of journeys.”

“I’d love it to tour. I think it’s an important subject and a lovely, moving show. As a company… As long as we keep making the work that we make – the accessible interesting, stuff for all theatregoing people, not just ‘the theatre people’.”



One Last Waltz runs at Greenwich Theatre until 17 March 2018. For further information, please visit the venue website.